Our current terrier mix has never shown the first inclination to dig anywhere or to hunt anything, so the current mole remains unmolested. There are spots all over our yard where the mole has opened up a hole in the earth to push out the loose soil it has excavated in making its tunnels, or where its offspring have exited the tunnel in search of their own territories: As I learned from Marc Hamer’s wonderful memoir, “How to Catch a Mole,” hands down the most charming book I read last year, moles are combative, solitary creatures except during mating, and their youngsters don’t hang around.
Moles can wreck the appearance of a poisoned, sprinkler-watered lawn, but they have never done any harm to this scruffy, wildlife-friendly patch of ground. Many wildflower seeds require disturbed soil to germinate and take root, and molehills are a safe landing place for wildflower seeds carried on the wind. Meanwhile the mole is busy underground doing its useful work: aerating the soil and consuming vast quantities of worms, slugs and grubs — often eating its own body weight in a day. A resident mole is always better pest control than any exterminator, and so much lovelier than any field of poisoned grass.
How lucky I am to live in a home with windows. Against all odds — the encroachments of construction companies and lawn services and exterminators — these windows still open onto a world that stubbornly insists on remaining wild. I love the bluebirds, and I also love the fierce hawk who reminds me that the peace of the backyard is only a fiction. I love the lizard who looks so much like a snake, and I also love the snake who would eat her if it could.
And my friend the mole, oh how I love my old friend the mole. In these days that grow ever darker as fears gather and autumn comes on, I remember again and again how much we all share with this soft, solitary creature trundling through invisible tunnels in the dark, hungry and blind but working so hard to move forward all the same.
Margaret Renkl is a contributing opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South. She is the author of the book “Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss.”
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